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Select Board Nixes Extending DEI Committee

After members of Burlington’s temporary Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee asked the town to extend the subcommittee beyond its one-year limit, the Select Board on Monday indicated they would not extend the subcommittee’s mandate but would instead seek outside training on DEI efforts. 

The DEI committee was created as an ad hoc committee in August, 2021, with a mission to “recognize and celebrate the diversity of our community while ensuring that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, education, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, and socio-economic status are respected and valued.” 

The committee presented its final report to the Select Board in November, 2022. In that report, committee members indicated their intention to continue meeting beyond the one-year mark. The Select Board discussed the DEI committees’ possible continuation in January, 2023 and elected to postpone any official action. 

“This isn’t us saying we’re never going to bring a DEI committee back,” said Select Board Chair Nicholas Priest. “It’s just, over the last months, reflecting on this, there’s an opportunity to reevaluate where we are.” 

Select Board Member Michael Runyan said he believed the final report was the conclusion of the committee’s work. “Not to diminish the importance of the topic, but I was under the impression that it was mission accomplished,” he said. 

Former DEI Subcommittee Member Carl Foss said he and other committee members hoped Select Board would keep the DEI committee for additional years, if not make it a permanent subcommittee. 

“Continuing the DEI subcommittee is an excellent way to provide a way forward,” Foss said. “If the DEI subcommittee is reupped for another year or more, the recommendations from the subcommittee can be actionable on an ongoing basis to serve the board and the town.”

The subcommittee has shared recommendations for second- and third-year initiatives to change the culture of government organizations. “You have the process before you,” said former DEI Subcommittee Chair B.J. Addison Reid.

Select Board Chair Priest thanked the subcommittee members for their work and reiterated the board’s intention to continue pursuing DEI efforts going forward.